At Hinge we have been studying Visible Experts℠, people who have attained high visibility and expertise in their industry, creating a personal brand that is recognizable industry-wide. We study them because we want to understand how they attained that status and what we can learn from them. This profile focuses on Andrew J. Sherman, a Visible Expert for legal services.
Invest in Your Career Path
Andrew J. Sherman has done it all. With a background that spans starting a business, going to law school, attaining rock star status in the field of corporate law, writing 26 books, getting hired on as partner at the global law firm Jones Day, and holding professorships at Georgetown Law School and the Smith School of Business at University of Maryland, many people might consider Andrew’s career history to be quite varied. But Andrew doesn’t see it that way.
“All of these activities were key steps on a long-term path,” he says. “I wanted to help people, to help entrepreneurs realize their dreams. Becoming a business attorney was a good way to do that. And early on I understood that helping solo entrepreneurs was the same skillset as helping multinational corporations. Small business training applies to big corporations—they have the same needs and can use the same strategies.”
For Andrew, writing, speaking, teaching, and helping clients in his law practice are all parts of a unified career strategy that balances, at its heart, the desire to help people with a desire to succeed. According to Andrew, “Everything I do is an integrated attempt to maintain reputation as a thought leader and because it adds value to my clients.” His ability to participate in such a wide and diverse range of professional activities was key to helping Andrew become widely known, greatly expanding his sphere of influence and his reputation and launching him into Visible Expert status.
A Fire Inside
The journey to Visible Expert status isn’t for the faint of heart—it takes grit, determination, and a refusal to ever quit. “If you aren’t ready to sacrifice, I’m not sure you can become a Visible Expert,” Andrew says. “I don’t take many vacations.” Andrew believes that there is “a motivation beyond dollars” for himself and many Visible Experts, and he credits his own energy and passion to a childhood of modest means. His great-grandfather had been a successful businessman until his factory burnt to the ground and he lost everything, overnight. That story had a major influence on Andrew, growing up in a Philadelphia family that had to scrimp and save to get by. “When you come from a background of modest means, you don’t take anything for granted,” he says. “You work harder for it and to maintain it.”
Becoming a Content Machine
Andrew’s childhood left him with the knowledge that “there was no room for complacency or for taking things for granted.” If you’re on top, he knew, there is no time to rest on your laurels, because there’s someone else coming up from behind with an even bigger idea. So early on, he came up with the idea of writing a book a year. “To stay on top, I needed to become a content machine, producing a book a year,” he says. As an added benefit, “it also keeps me sharp and adds value to my clients.”
Like many of the other Visible Experts in our series—including Alan Weiss, Ian Brodie, and Lori Randall Stradtman—producing a variety of content has played a critical role in Andrew’s becoming a Visible Expert. Besides his 26 books, he teaches graduate level classes, gives radio and TV interviews, writes numerous articles, is a frequent keynote speaker, and has been quoted and featured widely in the national press. “Americans have short memories,” Andrew says. “Thought leadership is about sustaining your commitment and keeping your reputation.”
Throughout his life, Andrew’s passion was always the one constant he could count on. “At the end of the day, I really can’t imagine doing anything else,” he says. “And if you don’t feel that commitment, you aren’t going to put the time in. I don’t think you can rise to the level of Visible Expert without being in love with your work.” His parting advice for those wishing to become Visible Experts? “Be passionate about what you do, and don’t ever take your position for granted,” he advises. “Keep investing in yourself. Keep creating new tools and resources to keep your status.”
To learn more on becoming a Visible Expert in your industry, check out The Visible Expert book.